On the Road: Frankfurter Follies, Culinary Concoctions and Garbage Gremlins in Everett
Yesterday’s “ribbeting” narrative from Everett ended where such Biz Blog narratives often do: with the evening’s ballgame having just begun. I spent the first couple of innings with the AquaSox “Frog Squad” game day promo crew, overseen by director of community relations Katie Crawford and fronted on the field by the esteemed Mr. Schuyler Muller.
Upon the conclusion of the top of the second inning, I was among those assigned to toss t-shirts to the crowd. My area of operation was directly behind home plate, which requires innovative wind-up techniques in order to insure that the shirt makes it over the net.
A far more memorable endeavor occurred one inning later, when I suited up as “Frank” in the nightly “Waddle Race.” This is the continuation of new ballpark tradition for me — dressing up as a food product that I can no longer eat due to my recent celiac disease diagnosis.
I become that which I cannot consume!
Frank has been a staple of the Everett Memorial Stadium experience for years, but apparently his appearances have become increasingly rare. While waiting to appear on the field, I learned that Frank was, truly, a processed meat product in demand. I signed several autographs for enthusiastic fans, feeling the whole time as if I was failing them because my “signature” was terrible. It is very hard to use a Sharpie when it is gripped through ill-fitting slippery red gloves!
One woman, in particular, was a rabid Frank fan. As soon as she spotted him she ran over, offered a big hug, and then had me sign two balls, a hat and a stuffed Frank doll. Clearly, this was a moment she had been waiting for. (And, clearly, I am currently confused as to whether I am writing in the first or third person).
As for the “Waddle Race” — I’d definitely never seen the likes of this before. It was a relay race, featuring two teams of two, in which participants had to run while gripping a baseball between their legs. If the ball was dropped along the way, the contestant had to spin around twice before proceeding. Frank was assigned the second leg of the race, alongside a competitive Dad with a prominent calf tattoo.
When Frank received the ball from his teammate, he had a healthy lead over the opposition. The hand-off:
But keeping a baseball between such slippery uniform fabric was hard work, and Frank’s progress toward the finish line was slow.
Okay — pause! Do you remember when I was at a Jackson Generals game earlier this season, and participated in a Fruit Race? My camera mysteriously stopped working during the race, with this damaged photograph followed by a series of “file not found” blank images.
At the time, I offered the following theory to why this had occurred:
My camera loves me…and was probably dismayed to see me demeaning myself at a Minor League ballpark yet again. Its malfunction was a protest of sorts, motivated by a desire to only document me at my best.
I am now convinced that this theory is true, as this damaged “Waddle Race” photo was followed by another series of “file not found” images. Unpause!
So, what happened the rest of the way is that Tattooed Dad overcame Frank’s lead and coasted to victory. In my opinion, this was because Tattooed Dad was wearing shorts. It is much easier to sandwich a baseball between bare skin than it is to do so with polyester pants. Please trust me on this!
But, anyway, my camera malfunction continued throughout the following between-inning contest. Muller the MC, who was already in his golf clothes, donned a green jacket and narrated the “Three Stroke Golf Challenge” in suitably hushed tones. It went off really well, and the success of the “Three Stroke Golf Challenge” was par for the course for the AquaSox. They have a creative slate of between-inning contests, and aren’t afraid to take risks. If you work for a team and feel that your operation might be getting a little stale in that department, then I’d suggest stealing some of their ideas.
Around the fifth inning or so I joined up with fourth-year employee Alex Baker, now a Frog Squad member and marketing intern, and the two of us went on a daring journey behind the outfield wall.
This mysterious area led to a mysterious alcove.
I was briefly tempted to plunge the entire ballpark into darkness…
But, instead, I just kept on walking until we reached our final destination: a lair!
And not just any lair, but the lair of the manual scoreboard operator. A grounds crew employee named Steven Cook resided therein, dropping numbered slats of wood into their appropriate holes.
Somewhere along the line, this list of rehabbing Seattle Mariner players morphed into a list of AquaSox scoreboard operators. What’s the difference, really?
I enjoyed my time in this lair, as I enjoy my time in all lairs. But there was more to see, and more to do. Back amongst the public, I snapped this shot of what the scoreboard looks like from the stands.
A brief stop back in the promo pit proved that all was copacetic; a typical scene consisting of dice-sitting employees in plastic hats with a cross-legged amphibian adjacent.
So Baker and I continued to our next destination — the “Frank’s Loaded Dogs” concession stand.
While I could not consume Frank in his full form, I did order a “Webbly’s AquaDog” sans bun.
Very tasty, yes, but in this anecdote I am a peripheral character. Upon meeting Baker earlier in the evening, he had earnestly inquired whether or not I had found a “designated eater” (i.e. one who is ready and willing to “take a gluten-filled bullet” on my behalf).
I replied that “No, I had not” and he quickly assured me that he would be up to the task. And, boy, was he ever. Baker chose the “Build Your Own” option, and after a bit of trial and error he concocted the following: Hebrew National frankfurter with mac and cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, jalapenos, cheddar cheese and bbq sauce (and probably more, there was only so much room in my notebook). I have multiple pictures of him posing with it, because he kept adding things to it.
But, throughout, the smile remained consistent.
The final product, which Baker dubbed the “Ultra-Dog.” It was, truly, a work of art.
We retreated to the picnic area down the first base line. Members of the Yakima bullpen were completely oblivious to the culinary history that was taking place just behind them.
I daintily approached my dinner.
While Baker’s approach was anything but dainty. I mean, he just devoured that thing.
Baker’s take on the “Ultra-Dog”: “Delicious! The flavors balanced each other perfectly — it was spicy, savory, and had a little tang from the onions. And then the hot dog brought it all together, serving as the backbone, if you will.”
At this point it was the seventh inning, and I was struck by a crazy idea — how about sitting down and watching the baseball game?
The fans engaged in an enthusiastic rendition of the seventh-inning stretch, which warmed my heart.
But, of course, I almost immediately forgot about my plan to just watch the game. In the eighth inning, it was time for “Garbage Gremlins.” I had never seen such a thing! Anyone who desired was invited to grab a (sponsored!) yellow trash bag, in order to collect garbage from the stands. All who did so received “AquaDollars” that could be redeemed at the ballpark, with the individual collecting the most trash receiving bonus AquaDollars (I forget just how many AquaDollars were at stake, so let’s just say “$850,000″).
Garbage Gremlins in action! Refuse to lose, there’s refuse to gain!
But this was no garbage time ballgame, and the hometown team emerged triumphant.
Frank approved the outcome.
You’d think that at this point it was time to call it a night, except no, it’s never time to call it a night when on these trips. Acting on a tip I had received earlier, I proceeded past out-of-uniform AquaSox autograph signers in search of a significant historical marker.
In the dark Everett night, it took me a while to find what I was looking for.
But, finally — success!
That square plaque on the bottom right commemorates the approximate landing spot of Ken Griffey Jr.’s first professional hit. I’ll let the plaque do the explaining (cigarette butt included to provide a sense of scale).
A unique bit of baseball history, and the icing on the cake to one of the most enjoyable and diverse “on the road” experiences that I have ever had. These days, I am constantly asked “You travel a lot. What are your favorite ballparks to visit?” Well, Everett Memorial Stadium is way up there, ranking with other 2012 favorites such as the Daytona Cubs and Arkansas Travelers. Great ballpark, great staff, great logo, great food — I’d highly recommend visiting should you ever get the chance to do so.
But, c’mon guys, you need to invest in at least one more letter “a.” An upside-down “u” doesn’t quite cut it…